June 24, 2013 in Nation/World

Wallenda walks wire over gorge

Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Nik Wallenda crosses a tightrope 1,500 feet above Arizona’s Little Colorado River Gorge on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

LITTLE COLORADO RIVER GORGE, Ariz. – Aerialist Nik Wallenda completed a tightrope walk that took him a quarter mile over the Little Colorado River Gorge in northeastern Arizona on Sunday.

Wallenda performed the stunt on a 2-inch-thick steel cable, 1,500 feet above the river on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon. He took just more than 22 minutes, pausing and crouching twice as winds whipped around him and the rope swayed.

“Thank you, Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God,” he said about 13 minutes into the walk.

Wallenda didn’t wear a harness and stepped slowly and steady throughout, murmuring prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way. He jogged and hopped the last few steps.

The event was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.

Winds blowing across the gorge had been expected to be around 30 mph. Wallenda told Discovery after the walk that the winds were at times “unpredictable” and that dust had accumulated on his contact lenses.

“It was way more windy, and it took every bit of me to stay focused the entire time,” he said.

The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family – a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats.

His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire-walking stunts.

Nik Wallenda grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. Sunday’s stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls, earning a seventh Guinness world record.

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